e-Commerce Packaging: More Than Just a Box

Wednesday, July 12th, 2023

By Audrey Yow

e-Commerce Packaging: More Than Just a Box.
Are e-commerce retailers not paying enough attention to packaging?


Statista reports that global e-commerce sales was about USD5.2 trillion in 2021. This could grow to USD8.1 trillion by 2026.


Alibaba is the largest e-commerce retailer worldwide, with online sales over 700 billion U.S. dollars in 2022.


Some expect Amazon to generate over USD1.2 trillion in online sales by 2027.


The Chinese e-commerce market could become the largest in the world, with internet sales taking up nearly half of its retail sales. The United Kingdom ranks second with the highest percentage of online retail sales (36%). South Korea stands at 32% and Denmark 20%. In general, e-commerce is booming in Asia. Last year, the fastest growing countries based on online sales are the Philippines and India.


Euromonitor reports that Asia Pacific’s e-commerce sales could nearly double to USD2 trillion by 2025. Some predict the region will see the highest sales growth in 2020–2025.


The above draws attention to an important aspect of online sales: e-Commerce packaging.


Why e-Commerce Packaging Is Important

Online shoppers sometimes complain of getting a small item packed in a box 10 times its size. Sounds familiar? That’s because it is a frequent occurrence. This irks environmentally conscious consumers, as additional materials such as bubble wrap or foam are added to fill the extra space. This leads to unnecessary waste. Sometimes, there are no fillers, leading to a battered and torn box, risking damage to the purchases.


Mintel’s senior eCommerce analyst Matt Lindner says, “The role of packaging in the online shopping channel is becoming a core focus for brands and retailers as consumers shift more of their spending online. Packaging concerns tend to fall into one of three areas — packaging integrity, environmental impact, and appearance.”


Packaging Integrity

This refers to how well a packaging container protects an enclosed product. Packaging determines shelf life and reduces risk of damage during transportation. More importantly, in F&B, packaging protects products from contamination and oxidation, preventing spoilage.


Ensuring packaging integrity is safeguarding your brand’s reputation. How well a product is packaged shows a brand’s commitment to ensuring that customers receive their products in good condition. Additionally, good packaging adds value and improves consumer perception of the brand. e-Commerce packaging should be an extension of your brand. Furthermore, it shows consumers what your business represents.


Environmental Impact of e-Commerce Packaging

The UN Environment Program (UNEP) estimates that a third of all plastics produced are used in packaging. This includes single-use plastic products for food and beverage. Majority of these end up in landfills.


Also, Euromonitor found that 60% of consumers use less plastics and 57% recycle items (Voice of the Consumer: Sustainability Survey 2022). This aligns with findings from most sources, which report that consumers lean towards brands that embrace sustainable practices.


With growing concerns about the environment, e-commerce retailers are expected to use packaging responsibly. For example, retailers could use recycled materials, minimise waste, and adopt eco-friendly alternatives. Furthermore, customers today prefer sustainable packaging. So, implementing such practices can enhance brand reputation and attract environmentally conscious consumers.


Appearance of Product

Packaging has an impact on customer experience. When customers receive orders in well-packaged boxes, it improves their opinion of the brand. Additionally, it creates a sense of excitement. This is an important aspect of branding and marketing. A well-designed packaging should include the following features:

  • Nice looking visuals.
  • Easy to handle and open.
  • Well-placed logos
  • Other aspects that can communicate useful product information and the brand’s values.


Modern packaging emphasises user experience. For instance, consumers can scan the QR code on the packaging to learn more about the product or brand.


Another cool feature is augmented reality (AR), which engages consumers and provides additional information or immersive experiences. For example, customers can visualise products, access multimedia content, or participate in games. All these contribute to brand engagement.


Major brands that use AR Packaging include Coca-Cola, Nestlé’s KitKat, and Starbucks. By scanning a QR code, users can access animations, games, or promotions. For example, in one of Lay’s potato chips campaigns, customers could scan the chip bags to play games and win prizes.


Packaging is a Vital Brand Component

Packaging can be used in innovative ways to enhance a brand’s image. With the e-commerce sector going strong, packaging is crucial. Most importantly, it serves to engage consumers, provide valuable information, and create memorable experiences.



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